'Tech Week' - As I look at my calendar for next week those two little words seem so benign, however, the fact that their presence has prevented the addition of any other entries reveals some of their significance. It is the last seven days before opening night, when all the separate components of a show come together for the first time and must be made to coalesce, sometimes not so lovingly referred to as ‘Hell week’: it’s that time again.
Tech week is like the high school years of a show’s life. It’s a short, stressful, transformative period where many diverse groups collide. In retrospect, we look at this time with nostalgia, but when immersed in it we are fighting for survival. Life before or after this time seems alien. Concerns that seem small in outside reality are dire within the hallowed walls of our transformation. Those who travel along with us through this journey are like family; until the journey’s end after which time we may not be able to recall their names. Those who are separate from the process assume that we must be filled with excitement when in reality we are simply exhausted. The most necessary of evils, we could not become who we must be without it.
Within tech week there are several events:
The Paper Tech: A meeting between director, stage manager, and perhaps other technical or production team members, during which each cue is discussed so that all concerned have a theoretical understanding of what ought to be achieved.
The Hang and Focus: A meeting in the theatre with the director, lighting designer, lighting operator, stage manager, and perhaps other technical or production team members during which each lighting cue is reviewed on stage and adjusted as necessary. Stand ins for actors are sometimes used; these stand-ins are called ‘light walkers’ and should be roughly similar in physical characteristics to the actors involved.
The Cue to Cue: A run of the show with actors and technicians which focuses only on events on stage which trigger lighting cues, sound cues etc. Important plot points may be skipped. The purpose of this run is to cement what each cue looks like for director, stage manager, technicians, and actors.
The Costume Parade: a meeting with director, stage manager, costume designer, and actors where each costume is shown to the director on the actor to confirm that it is properly fitted, suitable for the activities the actor performs in it, approved by the director etc.
The Dress Rehearsal: A run of the show with all costume pieces. The purpose of this run is to allow actors and backstage team members to explore the timing of assisted and unassisted costume changes. It also allows the director to see the costumes in context and in action. There is also the possibility of a ‘Dress and Tech’ in which the new elements of lighting, sound, and costumes are all introduced simultaneously.
This is an extremely simplified list and does not account for the possibility that you are mounting a musical involving vocal, dance, and instrumental considerations. In each of these situations unforeseen circumstances will arise and problem-solving skills will be put to the test. This is the trial by creative fire that each show must pass.
Once more into the breach, dear friends.